Court insists EFCC must pay N10m fine for man’s illegal detention

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The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission challenging the award of N50 million over the unlawful detention of one Babatunde Morakinyo.

The court stated that the rearrest of Morakinyo after he had perfected his bail in Abuja and Lagos was unacceptable in law and described the act as “oppressive, repressive and condemnable.”

Justice Hussein Muktar stated this on Wednesday while delivering the unanimous decision of a three-man panel of the appellate court.

He held that there was no error or ambiguity in the earlier decision of the Federal High Court, hence, the appeal was dismissed.

The twist in the appellate court’s decision was the downward review of the fine slammed by the Federal High Court on the anti-graft agency.

The appellate court ordered that the EFCC should pay N10 million as opposed to the N50 million earlier ordered by the Federal High Court Abuja.

According to the court, the earlier fine of N50 million was excessive.

The EFCC had dragged Morakinyo through the Federal High Court Abuja on March 19 on a 23-count that bordered on alleged money laundering.

During his arraignment, Morakinyo had pleaded not guilty and was admitted to bail. After perfecting the conditions of his bail, he was released when the court endorsed the warrant for his release.

However, the EFCC had rearrested and detained him on the ground that he was to face another trial before a High Court in Lagos State.

Following his rearrest and detention, Morakinyo had instituted an action for the enforcement of his fundamental human right at the Federal High Court Abuja and sought to be compensated for the illegal detention.

Justice Inyang Ekwo had ruled in favour of Morakinyo and ordered that EFCC pay N50 million damages.

“The act is an aberration of the tenets of the democracy we profess to practise.

“Unconstitutional and illegal courthouse arrest is condemnable and punishable. The courthouse arrest of the applicant by the respondent is no less so.

“Where the court has granted bail to a person and the person has met the terms of the bail, and release warrant has been issued to him, but he is facing arraignment in another court, he needs not be rearrested.

“He can be served the subsequent charge and given the opportunity to appear in court on the date fixed for his arraignment.

“The assumption that such a person is likely not to appear in court for the other trial is unfounded as his particulars of bail are in the custody of the court already.

“The court, which he is appearing next, has the discretion to grant him bail upon the previous terms or modify same. He is aware that it is in his interest to appear in court to answer to the allegations against him.

“There is no valid foundation for the subsequent arrest of the applicant on the excuse of a pending charge in Lagos, when he had been granted bail by a court of coordinate jurisdiction in Abuja upon arraignment for another charge,” The Punch quoted Justice Ekwo to have held.

After Justice Ekwo held in favour of Morakinyo, the EFCC had appealed to the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of the trial court.

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